The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

Description

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

I should start this review by stating that I read an ARC e-galley from Atria Books through Net Galley. The final product may differ.

I need to be honest and say that I had mixed feelings on this book. I am a huge WWII genre fan and I really like true stories the best as I tend to find them inspiring and compelling. However, while this story is based on true events, I found it hard to believe. (But hey – truth can be stranger than fiction!). I struggled to connect to both of the main characters, preferring Vera over Edith as Edith seemed petulant and self-centered for most of the book. I found events hard to believe (e.g. one of the Rothschilds sees their picture in Time Magazine and sponsors them to come to the US but drops dead and can’t pick them up at Ellis Island so they go elsewhere; Vera falls in love with her boss and they truly love each other, but he leaves her as he can’t have children due to mumps as a child). I guess the thing that is hardest for me is that throughout this story, people want to help these two young women not because they have been through and survived the Holocaust and lost their families, but because they are beautiful.

I struggled a bit with the writing in parts, esp in the dialogues, but again, my copy was an ARC.

So – I did find the story really interesting of how they survived while hiding in a barn and helping with a farm, and how they went to Caracas as many Jewish refugees did and started over, and how they rebuilt their lives. And maybe all the amazing events are true — as I said truth can be stranger than fiction — there really was an Edith Ban who was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who lived in Boston, was she the same Edith as in this book?

Overall I was left with mixed emotions. I don’t want this review to seem negative, I’m just being honest. I would have loved a bit at the end where the author says what’s true and what isn’t!

If you want a WWII read that is part romance and part survival and based on true events, then pick up a copy of The Light After the War! Let me know what you think.

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

I love Ariel Lawhon’s works and was excited to get this one off Net Galley! What a story! This was a fascinating and fantastic, though at times heart-breaking, story of WWII Resistance. It was so incredible that I was sorry that it was not true — and then I found out that it was based on true events and a true person, which made it all the more fantastic!

If you enjoy WWII stories with intrigue, action, suspense, and love, this is one for you!


Thank you, Doubleday Books, for my ARC!

Description

“Ariel Lawhon delivers in Code Name Hélène. This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake… will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike. A stark exploration of the remarkable difference one person, willing to rise in the face of fear, can make.”
-LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

BASED ON THE THRILLING REAL-LIFE STORY OF SOCIALITE SPY NANCY WAKE, comes the newest feat of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia, featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border and earns a new nickname from the Gestapo for her remarkable ability to evade capture: THE WHITE MOUSE. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, she is told to use the name HÉLÈNE with her comrades. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉE, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, known for her ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and her ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces. But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she–and the people she loves–will become.

The King’s Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie Hope is back! And I couldn’t be more thrilled! I love this series and I give kudos to Ms. MacNeal as she can make each installment in this series different and interesting and compelling.

If you like WWII stories with strong, smart women, then the Maggie Hope series is for you!

Description

Can a stolen violin lead secret agent and spy Maggie Hope to a new serial killer terrorizing London? Find out as the acclaimed World War II mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Susan Elia MacNeal continues.

Maggie Hope started out as Winston Churchill’s secretary, but now she’s a secret agent—and the only one who can figure out how the missing instrument ties into the murders.

London, December 1942. As the Russian army repels German forces from Stalingrad, Maggie Hope takes a much-needed break from spying to defuse bombs in London. But Maggie herself is an explosion waiting to happen. Traumatized by her past, she finds herself living dangerously—taking huge risks, smoking, drinking, and speeding through the city streets on a motorbike. The last thing she wants is to get entangled in another crime.

But when she’s called upon to look into the theft of a Stradivarius, one of the finest violins ever made, Maggie can’t resist. Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer on the loose in London, targeting conscientious objectors. Little does she know that investigating this dangerous predator will pit her against a new evil—and old enemies. Only Maggie can uncover the connection between the robbery, the murders, and a link to her past.

Thank you for my ARC!

The Forgotten Girls by Lizzie Page

Description

Elaine was typing out letters from POWs and reminding herself that she would not cry. Poor Sam in Burma doubted whether he would ever see his children again. ‘Tell them they mean the world to me.’ Come on, Sam. Elaine wanted to reach out into the letter, hold his hand. Hang in there. If only he knew that she was half a world away, reading, listening…

London, 1943. German bombs rain down on London, but Elaine Parker knows her job transcribing letters from far-away prisoners of war is more important than her own safety. As she pores over each tearful letter from a soldier to his family far away, she’s not only making sure the notes reach their destinations, but also looking for secret messages hidden between the lines to help the allies win the war.

At home, Elaine’s life isn’t so simple. What the other clerical girls don’t know is that Elaine’s family isn’t respectable, and with her parents long dead, it’s up to Elaine to make ends meet. But with one brother increasingly in trouble with the law, and the other suffering a violent breakdown, it doesn’t leave Elaine much time to consider her own future hopes and dreams. 

And then Elaine meets dark-haired and passionate Bobby – a wartime photographer on the dangerous front line – and her world shifts. The uncertainties of war feel more personal than ever. Will Elaine be forced to choose between her difficult family and her growing passion for Bobby? And how do you let yourself love someone with your whole heart when each moment could be their last? 

A heartbreaking World War Two novel – emotional and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of Orphan TrainSold on a Monday and Before We Were Yours.

I enjoyed this story of WWII, though it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought that since the description highlighted the codes in POW letters that that would be a major point in the plot, but this was really a love story. Elaine is a working class young woman who falls in love with a famous war photographer, Robert Capa. This is the story of their relationship. It was an interesting read, but it was even more interesting after I finished it and discovered that these were all real people. I went online and found pictures of Robert and Elaine and some of the photos that are written about in the story. Their story is heart-breaking and memorable, and I highly recommend it if you like this genre.

Thank you for my ARC!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

I really enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz (though I am aware of all the criticism it received for being unbelievable), and I was excited to find Ms. Morris’ next novel, Cilka’s Journey on Net Galley. Cilka is a character from Tatooist and the story tells what happens to her after the war.

First I must say that I struggled with the first third of this book. I found it so violent and disturbing that I feared I might not be able to continue reading as I was having nightmares, but I figured that this was someone’s story and they didn’t have the option to “stop reading” so I should stick with it. Luckily for me, things became less graphic and I got really into the plot and characters. Cilka was an amazingly strong young woman, but I was left with such a sense of sorrow – as I often am when I read stories of the Holocaust – that her young life was upended and forever changed by the atrocities of war. I also had no idea that those who “collaborated” with the Nazis in the camps (though some had no choice) by being in charge of their bunks, being forced to have sex with guards, etc. were sent to labor camps after the war.

Recommended to those who enjoyed the first story (though this is a stand alone) and stories of the Holocaust.

Here’s the overview:

Description

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.

HFVBTours: Feature of Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard

Today I’m blasting it up for Historical Fiction’s Virtual Book Tours with FAREWELL MY LIFE by Cynthia Haggard.

(FYI – this book contains adult themes and would be rated “R”. I have not personally read it).

Farewell My Life by Cynthia Haggard
Publication Date: October 29, 2019eBook & Paperback; 586 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Angelina led a life which required her to fib. When Angelina, the black sheep of the Pagano family, meets the mysterious Mr. Russell, she has no idea that she has seen him before…in another country. And so begins Farewell My Life, a novel in three parts, which spins an operatic tale of dangerous love and loss.
The Lost Mother, the first part of this novel, slices back and forth between time and space, opening in the charming village of Georgetown, Washington D.C. while reflecting a family’s troubled past in the lovely village of Marostica in the Italian Veneto.
An Unsuitable Suitor, the second part of the novel, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.
Farewell My Life, the last part of the novel, set again in Berlin, Germany, during the dark 1930s as the Nazis gain power, takes comfortable lives, assumptions and civilizations and crumbles them into ash.

About the Author
Cynthia graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Cambridge MA, in June 2015.
Her first novel, Thwarted Queen, a frustrating tale (hence the title) of Lady Cecylee Neville (1415-1495) who was nearly crowned Queen of England, was shortlisted for many awards, including the 2012 Eric Hoffer New Horizon Award for debut authors. To date, sales have surpassed 38,000 copies.
Her forthcoming novel, Farewell My Life, is a Cinderella-ish tale with not-so-charming princes who inhabit the edgy setting of 1920s Berlin.
When she’s not annoying everyone by insisting her fictional characters are more real than they are, Cynthia likes to go for long walks, knit something glamorous, cook in her wonderful kitchen, and play the piano. 

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

Wine? WWII? Resistance activities? Count me in! I really enjoyed this novel about a young woman who spent her post-war years trying to amend for her actions during the war. Don’t want to give it all away – no spoilers here!

I had enjoyed Kristin Harmel’s earlier novels, so I chose this one through Net Galley. I love reading of this era and am always amazed at the tenacity of the people who lived through such hardship. This was part love story and – to be honest – that was the one part I didn’t really enjoy. I particularly did not like the character of Celine’s husband and found him very one dimensional.

Overall, this was a great read and one I would recommend to folks who enjoy this genre.

Thank you for my review copy!

Description

Instant #1 bestsellerfrom The Globe and Mail (Toronto) and The Toronto Star

“Love and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption combine in a heady tale of the ever-present past…fantastic!” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

The author of the “engrossing” (People) international bestseller The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even greater—rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.

When Céline recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Inès makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love—and the champagne house that ties them together.

New York, 2019: Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France. But the older woman has an ulterior motive—and a tragic, decades-old story to share. When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau.